Devotional April 4, 2021 ~ Easter Sunday

If you have ever taken a writing course you may know that the general theory is
there are only five ways to properly end a story. You can have a resolved ending where the
hero accomplishes what they set out to do. You can have an unresolved ending in which

the hero does not accomplish what they set out to do. You can have a twist in the ending
where the hero does not accomplish what they set out to do but accomplishes something
else. You can have an implied ending where we don’t know if the hero accomplished it but
it was really about the journey in the first place or finally, you can have the “it was all just
a dream” ending, which isn’t satisfying for anyone. Endings are a funny thing and it
appears that Mark had some trouble ending his gospel, or rather, the monks who were
transcribing his Gospel didn’t like how it ended and needed to provide something more
If you have a Bible in front of you, you may notice that there are multiple endings
to Mark’s gospel. In the version I have in front of me right after verse 8 in all caps it says
THE SHORTER ENDING OF MARK and verse 8 is briefly extended. Then, again in all
caps, it says THE LONGER ENDING OF MARK, and it includes 11 further verses as
well as a short detail regarding the ascension. In fact, in various ancient manuscripts there
are five different endings to the Gospel of Mark. It is, however, generally believed that
the original manuscript ended at verse 8. We heard the NRSV version but I like the New
International Version which states, “The women fled from the tomb, trembling and
bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.” Happy
Easter? No wonder scribes felt that there needed to be a bit more because this ending is
worse than “it all being a dream”, worse than an unresolved ending, I get that the gospels
were really all about the journey not the final destination, but that ending leaves no
closure. Since January we have touched on how Mark likes to use the word immediately or
suddenly, well suddenly his gospel ends. But perhaps there is purpose to this open ended
However, before we look at the ending let’s look at the beginning of the passage.
On the Saturday evening, after their sabbath meal, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of

James and Salome (sah-LUH-mei) go out to purchase burial spices. This was a pre-
planned trip. Then very early the next day, at dawn, they head to the tomb. Notice how it

is a double reference, the writer could have just as easily written “they left at dawn” but it
says “very early on the first day of the week” (reference one to the time of day), “when the
sun had risen” (the second reference) and this is to point out that the women left as soon as
they could, as soon as the darkness of night had lifted they left for the tomb. Mark is still
demonstrating that there is an urgency to the women’s need to dress Jesus’ body with
spices. This is also a well known practice in 1st century Palestine.

As they approach the tomb they mutter to themselves, who will roll away the
stone. It’s funny to me that they had the foresight and planning to go out the night before to
pick up the spices but they neglected to ask someone of strength to come with them to help

roll away the stone. Grief sometimes makes us a little illogical. We fixate on one aspect
and completely ignore another. But then, they see that the stone has been rolled away.
They enter the tomb and there is a young man dressed in white sitting to the right. In
Judaism, angels were described as young men, so we should also probably take this man to
be a heavenly being. Understandably the women are alarmed. This is not what the
expected to find. And they hear the words, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus
of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” And for further proof
he points to the place where Jesus’ body should be. The angel tells them to tell the
disciples and Peter that Jesus will meet up with the disciples later on. But as we know the
women are seized by terror and appear to say nothing to anyone.
Let’s assume that Mark ended his gospel at verse 8. What that tells us is that the
experience of the resurrection is an initially overwhelming experience and the first
response is shock and silence. But we know from the other gospels, and by the pure fact
that we are here today celebrating the resurrection, that the women do not remain silent.
They do indeed go on to tell the disciples. But this open ending, allows us as readers to
contemplate these unusual events and respond in our own time. The resurrection
is unbelievable. Despite the fact that Jesus told them this was how it was going to happen,
no one was prepared to find an empty tomb. They are caught off guard. Have you ever
been caught off guard by God?

In trying to understand why the gospel ends this way, theologian and blog writer,
David Lose, writes, “Maybe [Mark] knew that no story about death and resurrection could
possibly have a neat and tidy ending…Maybe he believed that this story isn’t over yet, and
he writes an open ending to his gospel in order to invite us to jump in and take up our part
in continuing it.” And I tend to agree. The story isn’t over yet. And now that we have
celebrated our second Easter during this pandemic we need to think about how this story
isn’t over. The story of the resurrection should cause us to be a little stunned, even afraid,
maybe even uncomfortable, because it demonstrates just how powerful God truly is, and
that’s something to fear. But it also reminds as that we are enveloped into this story of
incredible, unbelievable grace, and salvation. We need to understand that the words, “He is
not here” is only the beginning of what God has in store for us! Happy Easter! Amen